A sitz bath, also known as a hip bath, is a type of bath wherein you sit with your buttocks up to your hips in warm water or saline solution in a bathtub or a large basin.
This type of bath is medically recommended to relieve discomfort and pain in the lower part of the body. In fact, a sitz bath is a great option for people with pain, inflammation, swelling or irritation in the perineum (the space between the rectum and vulva or scrotum).
It’s also helpful for people who have problems in the anal area or some kind of infection in the anogenital area.
Using a sitz bath is easy. You can either convert your bathtub into a sitz bath or use a sitz bath kit that is readily available in the market.
You can use warm or cold water for a sitz bath, depending upon the reason you are using it. In some cases, you may need to do a contrast sitz bath, alternating warm and cold water.
Sitz Bath in a Bathtub
You can use your regular bathtub to create a sitz bath. Just be sure to clean the bathtub thoroughly before and after.
- Partially fill a bathtub with warm water.
- Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt or baking soda into the water.
- Sit in the bathtub so that your buttocks and genital area are immersed in the water.
- Soak for about 15 minutes at a time or until the water loses its heat.
- Gently pat the area dry afterward.
Sitz Bath Kit
Sitz bath kits available in the market can be used with most toilets. A kit normally consists of a plastic bag, attached to a long tube, leading to a shallow plastic basin.
- Place the tube through the hole in the basin and pull it all the way to the center.
- Clip it into the bottom of the basin.
- Use the clamp to cut off flow through the tube.
- Fill the solution bag with lukewarm or cold water.
- Put the basin over the inner rim of the toilet.
- Hang the bag on a hanger or hook to allow the liquid to drain downward.
- You can now sit on the basin
- Unclamp the tube.
- Soak for about 15 minutes at a time.
- Stand up and pat the area dry with a clean cotton towel.
Benefits of using a sitz bath
You can use a sitz bath, either a bathtub version or a kit, to treat several health conditions easily at home.
1. Cures Hemorrhoids (Piles)
Hemorrhoids, also known as piles, are swollen veins located around the anus or in the lower rectum.
Hemorrhoids are common in both men and women and affect about 1 in 20 Americans. In fact, about half of adults older than age 50 have hemorrhoids.
As you age, the supporting tissues in the anal area weaken, making you more susceptible to hemorrhoids, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (1).
With the help of a sitz bath, you can reduce the discomforts of piles. The moist heat helps soothe hemorrhoids and relieve pain and itchy sensations.
Pregnant women will also find it beneficial. A 2017 study published in Women and Birth reports that a conservative treatment protocol for hemorrhoids during pregnancy, in which a sitz bath is an essential modality, showed very promising outcomes compared to an anorectal cream (2).
2. Reduces Vaginal Birth Discomfort
After vaginal birth, a woman goes through a lot of pain and discomfort. In fact, the cramping one experiences as the uterus shrinks back to its regular size can be unbearable.
To help reduce the soreness and tenderness, it is recommended to use a sitz bath.
Using a sitz bath after delivery helps cleanse the perineum, in turn reducing the risk of any kind of infection. Vaginal birth often causes inflammation of the perineum, which also can be reduced with a sitz bath.
Postpartum healing is also aided by a sitz bath. The tepid water actually boosts your blood circulation in the area, which in turn promotes healing.
3. Treats Vaginal Cysts
A vaginal cyst is a lump of fluid or semi-solid tissue that forms along the walls of the vagina, usually near the opening of the vagina.
There are many types of vaginal cysts. The most common ones are vaginal inclusion cysts, Gartner’s duct cysts and Bartholin’s cysts.
When a cyst is large or there is an infection involved, it can cause a lot of discomfort or pain.
With the help of a sitz bath, you can easily reduce the discomforts and encourage healing by promoting drainage of the cyst. Moreover, it can help keep the area clean and reduce the risk of an infection.
It may take many days of sitz baths to treat vaginal cysts. Also, depending upon your condition, you may have to use a sitz bath three or four times a day, for at least 10 to 15 minutes each.
4. Heals Anal Fissures
Anal fissures are cracks or tears in the anus and anal canal, a problem that can be acute or chronic. The primary symptom of anal fissures is pain during and following bowel movements as well as bleeding, itching and discharge that has a bad odor.
A sitz bath is beneficial for people suffering from anal fissures. It will help increase blood flow to the anal area, which aids healing of minor tears or splits in the tissue.
A 2007 study published in the World Journal of Surgery found that patients receiving a sitz bath after a sphincterotomy for anal fissures reported some benefits, even if the pain level was not significantly different from those not receiving a sitz bath.
Reported benefits included a significant relief in anal burning, a marginally better satisfaction score and no adverse side effects (3).
Another study published in the Australian Prescriber in 2016 reports that the management of primary anal fissures is generally non-operative and includes increased dietary fiber, sitz baths, topical ointments and botulinum toxin injections. Patients would need a surgical referral only if these treatments are ineffective (4).
5. Combats Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a type of infection that affects the female reproductive organs, occurs when sexually transmitted bacteria enter the vagina and spread to the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries.
There is a great deal of pain and discomfort associated with pelvic inflammatory disease. A sitz bath can help relieve the pain.
For treating pelvic inflammatory disease, try a contrast sitz bath (alternating with cold and warm water). The warm bath will help relax the pelvic muscles, while the cold bath will help alleviate pain.
Always start with the hot sitz bath and end with a cold one. You can do a set of three alternating sits baths at a time.
6. Treats Inflamed and Enlarged Prostate
Enlarged prostate is a disorder that generally affects men age 50 and older.
A contrast sitz bath is a soothing and effective way to reduce the discomforts of an enlarged prostate. While the warm water will helps relax the pelvic muscles, reduces swelling and promotes healing, the cold bath eases pain.
Sitz baths also work by keeping the area clean and increasing blood flow to the area.
A 2012 study published in the Asian Journal of Andrology reports that sitz baths, prostate massage and pelvic floor physical therapy may help patients better control the symptoms of chronic prostatitis (5).
7. Eases Constipation
Constipation can affect people of all ages, including children. Pain and discomfort associated with constipation can easily be reduced by sitting on a warm sitz bath.
In fact, taking sitz baths can help reduce discomfort associated with elimination and prevent the tendency to hold back stools.
To prevent or treat constipation, you can either use a warm or cold sitz bath, depending upon which works for you.
8. Alleviates Pain from Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a condition common in women wherein tissue similar to the lining inside the uterus is found outside the uterus, in turn inducing a chronic inflammatory reaction.
According to experts, endometriosis affects an estimated one in 10 women during their reproductive years, which is approximately 176 million women worldwide (6).
Pelvic pain is the most common symptom of endometriosis, which can be reduced with sitz baths. A contrast warm and cold sitz bath is often recommended.
- If using a warm sitz bath, always check the temperature of the water. It should be lukewarm and not hot. Hot water can burn the sensitive skin.
- You can use table salt, Epsom salt, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar or baking soda in the water.
- Don’t add shower gel, bubble bath or any type of soap.
- You can use a sitz bath 3 or 4 times a day for 10 to 15 minutes. Depending on your condition, a doctor may suggest more.
- Definition & Facts of Hemorrhoids. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/hemorrhoids/definition-facts. Published October 01, 2016.
- Hemorrhoids during pregnancy: Sitz bath vs. ano-rectal cream: A comparative prospective study of two conservative treatment protocols. Women and birth : journal of the Australian College of Midwives. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29055673.
- Effects of warm water sitz bath on symptoms in post-anal sphincterotomy in chronic anal fissure–a randomized and controlled study. World journal of surgery. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17534541. Published July 2007.
- Anal fissure. Australian Prescriber. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4816871/. Published February 2016.
- An overview of prostate diseases and their characteristics specific to Asian men. Asian Journal of Andrology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3720159/. Published May 2012.
- Endometriosis Fact Sheet. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/about_acog/news_room/~/media/newsroom/millionwomanmarchendometriosisfactsheet.pdf